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Staying Out of Court

June 10, 2013

I am always interested to hear what people say when I ask them about their decision to see a lawyer (or not) about their family law problem.  Many choose not to, or delay doing so, because they think seeing a lawyer means they will automatically go to Court and will lose control over how their problem is resolved.

Here’s the news, people: Seeing a lawyer needn’t mean you have to go to Court. Seeing a lawyer doesn’t mean you lose control over how your problem is resolved. Good family lawyers work with you to identify your goals and to formulate a plan you are comfortable with for achieving those goals.

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At my firm, we recognise that most people don’t want to go to Court and that it is beneficial for families to resolve their family law issues themselves as much as possible. To this end, we work hard to get to know you, your family and to identify for you all the available options for resolving your family law problem and will work hard with you to help you stay of Court. Some of those options are:

Mediation

Increasingly, Mediation is being seen as a successful option for helping resolve family law disputes outside of Court.

Mediation involves a neutral person (the Mediator) guiding you through a structured process to resolve the family law problem you are facing.

The mediation process:

–          Is completely voluntary;

–          Is confidential;

–          Can involve just you and the other person involved in the dispute. It can also include your lawyers for part or all of the mediation;

–          Focuses on the needs and interests of the participants;

–          Aims to enable you to arrive at an agreement that is of your making – the mediator cannot decide the dispute or force a decision upon you

Mediation can offer you the following benefits:

–          It takes less time than litigation. The Family Court process takes time to work through. This, coupled with the general delays in the Family Court in some regions, mean it can take months or years to have your issue resolved. You can generally meet with a mediator within weeks.

–          It will often cost less than litigation.

–          It can be a lot less damaging to the relationships between the participants. This is particularly important in family disputes as there is likely to be a future, ongoing parenting or family relationship to be considered.

–          You retain more control over the outcome. If you seek to have the Family Court resolve your dispute, you ultimately surrender control for decision making about your problem to a Judge. 

–          You are less limited in the aspects of your story that you tell and the range of options for resolving your problem. The solutions available to you are only limited by your imagination. By comparison, the Court is limited in the evidence it can consider and the remedies that it can order.

–          Solutions reached can be recorded in a legally binding Agreement.

Collaborative Practice

Collaborative Practice is relatively young in New Zealand but it is a process that has been effectively helping families overseas resolve disputes for many years now.

The Collaborative Process:

–          Is about working together as a team with your respective lawyers;

–          Involves agreeing not to take your dispute to Court;

–          Involves resolution of your problem through a series of collaborative meetings;

–          Involves a commitment to honest, open, respectful communication and information sharing;

–          Can include other communication, child and financial professionals that may be required in order to resolve your problem;

–          Involves you each having your own lawyer (trained in Collaborative Practice) to provide support and legal advice to you and to guide you through the process. The lawyers do not take your dispute through Court.

The Collaborative Process can offer you the following benefits:

–          You both set the pace and timing of the process, rather than having it dictated to you by the Court.

–          It may cost less than litigation.

–          It can be a lot less damaging to the relationships between the participants and can provide you with new tools for problem-solving in the future.

–          You retain more control over the process and the outcome. If you seek to have the Family Court resolve your dispute, you ultimately surrender control for the process and decision making about your problem to a Judge. 

–          It promotes an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation.

–          There is minimal paperwork as much of the work is done through meetings, rather than through letters being sent between lawyers.

–          Solutions arrived at take into account the priorities and needs of both parties and are often far less limited than the solutions that the Family Court can offer.

–          Solutions reached can be recorded in a legally binding Agreement.

If you want to learn more about staying out of Court, contact me – Selina Trigg at Family Law Results on 0064 9 297 2010 or go to www.familylawresults.co.nz to learn more about our team of specialist family lawyers. 

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